Story Links

May 30, 2013

Tournament Central | Coach Opening Statements | O’Connor and Sottolano on Starting Pitchers

Virginia Coach Brian O’Connor
Opening Statement:
“I would first like to say to the three visiting schools and their administrations that are here, on behalf of the University of Virginia, we’d like to welcome everybody here to the Charlottesville Regional. We are excited to be hosting another regional here. We’ve got three great teams here this weekend that have joined us. All four of the schools that are here this weekend have earned the right to play at this time of the year. I believe that the visiting coaches, players and administrators will receive great hospitality here in Charlottesville this week and I know that our fans will treat them with class and represent our University the right way. I just want to welcome everyone here for this regional. We are obviously excited to be in the NCAA Tournament again. It’s been a fun year for us in the ACC, it’s been a year where we’ve had a lot of development and maturity of different players throughout the year. Lots have been made of the youth we have in our ball club. Our team has played this year as consistent as we’ve had a club play here in my time. We are really excited to get started with NCAA baseball.”

Army Coach Joe Sottolano
Opening Statement:

“Once again, it’s good to be back. Seeing that name pop up on the screen, right back at Virginia, was sort of a pleasant surprise. I thought last year’s regional was extremely well run, very professional. From the coaching staff all the way up to the administration and the town, and the city. We are pleased to be here. I’d like to congratulate all the coaches. Of the four teams here I think we are probable the youngest and newest. These coaches are used to being at regionals and NCAA tournaments, obviously we’ve had some success to come here as of late, but it’s great to be here. I’ve heard a lot about these institutions over the years. First time playing for me against Elon and against [UNC] Wilmington, so we are very pleased to be here. Again, a very young team, I’d like to echo what Coach [O’Connor] said a little bit. We are talking about teams only bringing back ten players – we have only two players on the field who started last year for us. It was sort of a David vs. Goliath all year. Not one junior or senior had started before this year, so this is a very young team. It’s been a fun season, a developmental season, to see what happened early and how we developed as of late. We have to be extremely tough and very disciplined in what we are doing to compete against these three schools, and I understand that, we’ve been working hard at that. We are looking forward to the challenges, and again I’d like to thank everyone for having us here, and congratulate these coaches.”

UNC Wilmington Coach Mark Scalf
Opening Statement:

“We are very excited to be back in post-season as well, and I will echo congratulations to all the schools. This year’s club is a little bit different for us than some we’ve had in the past. We’re probably not as athletic as some of the clubs we’ve had. We really have four starters back off of last year’s regional team, as far as position players, so the contributions we’ve received from a number of players that are returning, but have spent very little time for us on the field, and some freshmen, has been fun to watch. We know that for us, to have a chance here, we are going to have to play extremely clean defensively, and we are going to have to pitch like we have all year. I think our pitching staff has been very consistent throughout the course of the year, and has given us a chance. We are a club that has to move runners and we have to count on some big two out RBI’s to have a chance to win some ballgames. We are tremendously excited to be here at a great venue. It’s my first time in the stadium as its been rebuilt, I was here back in the 80’s. Our kids are looking forward to every day here.”

Elon Coach Mike Kennedy
Opening Statement:

“I’ll echo sentiments as well, congratulations to all three schools. From what I know of these coaches, these will be three very well coached teams, and will present a challenge for our program. Speaking of Elon Baseball and the season we’ve had, we had some high expectations coming in, there are a lot of seniors on this club. We felt like at the start of the season this was a possibility. We ran through some injuries, and at our level, the mid-major level, its tough and challenging. Brian [O’Connor] will tell you, even at the ACC level, when you lose players it takes a toll on your team, and we went through some of that. We had a stretch where we had a tough part of our schedule when we played Carolina three times, then followed that up with Mark [Scalf] and his club at [UNC] Wilmington when they were playing extremely well and then went over to Louisville when they were playing well. We did fair to well, and I thought that took a toll on our club. We didn’t respond too well, but we hung in there and kept fighting. We finally peaked at the right time – we got a few guys healthy and a few guys back, and played extremely well. We’ve got quality starting pitching. We feel like we have a chance to be in some games, and that’s important obviously in an event like this. We are pleased to be here and very excited. We know we are going up against three very well coached teams and that we are going to have to play well to compete. We are looking forward to that challenge.”

Coach O’Connor (Virginia)
On the level of play across conferences:

“This is what’s great about college baseball. There’s no other sport that you have college baseball programs competing at the highest level of college baseball. You know a lot of teams can compete in the highest level of college baseball. You see teams in the College World Series, Cal State Fullerton, that aren’t competing in basketball or football for national championships. Even though in my time at Virginia we’ve only played [UNC] Wilmington, Elon and Army once, I know the caliber of these programs. The fact that someone isn’t from the SEC, ACC, Big 12, PAC-12, in our sport, it’s a non-factor. There are great coaches and great players at all these school. This weekend, just like any other weekend, we are going to have to play great baseball in order to have a chance to move on.”

On starting Brandon Waddell on the mound:
“I’m very comfortable starting Brandon Waddell tomorrow. He started the opening game of our season as a true freshman. We could tell pretty quickly when this young man got here that he had a tremendous amount of poise, he’s a really good athlete, not much fazes him. The fact that this is his first NCAA tournament that he’s played in, and the fact that he’s getting the ball in the opening game, one, he deserves it, he started on Friday for us all year long. I think he’s pretty good, and he’s got the poise and maturity to handle the situation.”

Coach Sottolano (Army)
On starting Chris Rowley on the mound:

“I’d like to think that Chris is a well-respected athlete, a fierce competitor. Chris will throw tomorrow, and we are looking forward to having him get back on the mound again. Whether it’s in the NCAA Regional, the first game of the year, the middle of the year, conference, conference championship, it’s still another baseball game. Having been here for another year, I think Chris is looking forward to that opportunity.”

On the team’s journey this year:
“The year started out a little more difficult than we’d like, it’s a very young team. We had some really good pitching, I’m thinking Chris [Rowley], Gunnar Carroll and those types of guys, and it was through the ups and downs, just like anyone else goes through. We had some injuries and those types of things, but we fought through it. We became much closer as a club – I think the leadership at the academy really helped. Guys pulled together in adverse times and developed a little bit of tenacity and toughness along the way. The key for us is to get a lot of two our RBIs, compete, put guys in scoring position, get guys moving and doing things that could make things happen. That’s not always an easy thing to do when the other team is throwing a ton of strikes and picking up the baseball, it’s not always easy. We really have to be tough and disciplined in order to be successful, and that sort of came through at the end of the year.”

On returning to Virginia for the Regional:
“I think all of our programs talk about being successful year in and year out. There are teams that make it to the regionals every once in a while and are successful every once in a while. Programs sustain, you look at Elon, you look at [UNC] Wilmington, you look at Virginia, they’ve sustained. I like to think that we’ve developed that reputation over the last several years. I hope so. It’s something we talk about in the recruiting process – it’s something we are going to talk about in the years to come. I don’t know if there was a bright-eyed [feeling] last year, I think it’s something you can develop within the culture of your club, to expect it. I think you don’t take it for granted. But you expect it to be here and you expect to try to compete. The biggest thing for us, when you get to this level, just like any other day, we want to play well. We like to say every day in our program’s championship day, whether it’s practice or whether it’s a game. So tomorrow is another day, and we have to take it as such.”

Coach O’Connor (Virginia)
On Mike Papi’s development:

Mike Papi’s development this year is really a great lesson to all players on our club, or on any club. Here’s a kid who last year was hitting in our cleanup spot as a true freshman, the first 30-40 percent of the year, then didn’t play much the back half of the year last year. He comes back this year and he’s not in the starting lineup for the first 15 or 18 ballgames. One might say he’s a little buried, Papi’s not getting any time. Then we go all the way down to Clemson and all of a sudden you plug him in there for a couple ballgames and you get some game winning hits, you get a four-hit day, and then he goes on and has an all conference kind of year. There’s a great lesson in there for all the players that you might feel like things aren’t going your way, and you’re not getting your opportunities, but if you hang in there and have the right attitude that there’s a chance it’ll work out for you, that’s why it’s worked out for Mike Papi. Because he had the right attitude even when he wasn’t playing, and he was prepared for his opportunity. His development this year has been pretty impressive. It’s been fun to watch, he’s as good as anybody that we’ve had.”

Coach Kennedy (Elon)
On depth and confidence from running through the Southern Conference Tournament:

“Certainly getting through that gives us energy and life. We’re here, and without that we’re not here. Certainly it’s a big lift in itself. We found out some things about some kids in terms of toughness, maybe we hadn’t put them in that role before, and in an event like this you can bring them back a little earlier than you would all year. I think you learn a few things about some kids that you haven’t done because when you’re playing your three game set during the year, you’re not doing those kinds of things and you’re managing totally different. We were put in a position where our backs were against the wall a little bit, and we asked some things out of some kids that we normally wouldn’t, and they responded very well. We know that there’s some stuff in there that these kids can dig from and learn from and apply to this situation if we are given that situation. I think we learned a lot from it.”

Coach Scalf (UNC Wilmington)
On the CAA’s strong presence in the NCAA Tournament:
“Our league was very good this spring. A number of players that have grown and matured over the last couple years in several programs – Towson played extremely well, you look at their record and say what are you talking about? They’re 29-28, but they’re a solid club. Defensively, I don’t know that there’s anyone better than them defensively. They may be a little short pitching depth wise, but they are a very good club. Northeastern’s pitching may be as good as anybody’s on the East Coast, their top five guys. Georgia State played very well, William & Mary’s pitching and position players figured out a way to get it done every day and they play extremely hard. Our league continued to grow through the course of the year. I feel like we are headed in the right direction, getting back to where we were at one time. In the late 90’s, early 2000s, our league was anywhere from the third to the fifth best in the country RPI wise. We lost some schools and had some changes, and baseball wasn’t quite as important to some. Now, I think there are quality coaches throughout the conference, and a number of very good players. I’m excited about the fact that College of Charleston, of course Elon and Mike [Kennedy’s] group which will be coming in the fall certainly improve our conference even more.”

On the win against North Carolina:
“Hopefully it continues to give them the confidence necessary to compete against some of the best teams in the country. We did that on the road, anybody that saw that game knows that we were pretty ugly the first three innings – it was not pretty. We didn’t play well and were down 6-0. We found a way to work back [into the game] and score six to tie it in the fourth [inning], and then we had great pitching and played defensively the rest of the way – then had a couple big two-out knocks. It’s the toughness part that Brian [O’Connor] Mike [Kennedy] and Joe [Sottolano] have talked about with all the kids. It is just a matter of hanging in there – continuing to work – continuing to stay positive and do it as a group. If one pitcher is struggling on any given day, there’s another one coming out of the pen to pick him up. That’s one plus for our ball club this year, they’ve been there for each other. And they’ve really got a short memory, we’ve had some bad days and they’ve eliminated it and played well the next.”

Coach O’Connor (Virginia)
On what the single most important element is to bring a team success at an NCAA Regional:

“Its consistency, its playing like you have all year. You can’t try to do more than what the player’s ability is. You have to pick up the ball and throw it across the field, you have to throw strikes and you have to get those big two-out hits. If you go back and look at all these past regionals [at Virginia], or if you look across the country – most of the time that is what it comes down to. If you don’t pick up the ball and throw it across the infield and if you don’t throw strikes than you are not going to have a chance. The competition is too high, you are going to face too good of pitching and too good of lineups – you just don’t get away with mistakes like that. I think its just consistent, fundamental baseball play.”

Print Friendly Version